Debunking the false claims about the Russian word “Slava” – “Glory”

A few days ago I was made aware of a post in a German Telegram channel that seemed to liken praising “Glory to Russia” with a Nazi salute. This prompted me to write an analytical reply pointing out to the root of this malicious misconception, adding linguistic, historical and cultural references to support the debunking of this claim. But first, here is the post in question, followed by an automatic translation of it to English.

The Wagners and Russians would be outraged if they had to read this.
This is and remains a fascist salute.
The Russians have expelled the Heil-Hitler-Schreier from their country and will certainly not shout Heil Russia.
Anyone who brings such a saying has nothing, but also nothing, understood.
But you have already noticed here more than once as a provocateur.
There should be an @admin looking there!

It seems that the author thinks of the Russian words “slava” (слава) – “glory” as as some kind of Nazi salute. The root of this misconception lies in the association of the Russian «Glory to Russia» to the Ukrainian Nazi slogan “Glory to Ukraine”. However, anyone making such an extrapolation is not only demonstrating ignorance, but is also playing into the hands of those who are driving smear campaigns at Russia from all thinkable angles.

There is one fundamental, crucial difference: «Glory to Russia» was never used to greet the German Nazi invaders, it was never used as a slogan to which terrible atrocities were committed, as was the case in Ukraine under the Banderite rule.

Ukraine has a two-fold problem with their slogan: first OUN-UPA used it, basically binding the whole country in blood. They didn’t take «Glory to Bandera» as their slogan – even in Germany the slogan was limited to «Heil Hitler» and was not a «Heil Deutchland». And even then no one says that the German word «heil» should be removed from the German dictionary.

The second half of the problem came when Ukraine doubled down on the OUN-UPA legacy and continued to use that particular slogan in their modern neo-Nazi state-building policy.

There is nothing wrong with praising one’s country. Take Norway, for example: «Heia, Norge!» and the first lines of the Norwegian anthem «Yes, we love this country» are praising the county, but no one in their right mind will say that they are Nazi slogans! There is nothing wrong with national pride and national romanticism, as long as it does not happen at the expense of the other nations. The Nazi Germany’s slogan “Dutschland über alles” (Germany above all), the Ukro-Nazi slogan “Ukraina ponad use” (Ukraine above all) and the American “exceptional nation” all point at this nationalism at the expense of others. Ukraine with is “slava Ukraine, gerojam slava, smert’ vorogam” (“Glory to Ukraine, glory to heroes, death to the enemies”) implies that those “enemies” are all who do not see themselves as Ukrainians – they are building a mono-national exceptional state. Russia, on the other hand, has almost 200 nationalities living in it, and every nationality is precious, contributing to the whole country, so anyone praising Russia with “slava Rossii” is praising the collective achievements of all the people in Russia in all of their diversity.

Now to the linguistic/semantic part. The word “Slava” (Слава) is present in many forms in the Slavonic languages. It is in the self-name of our family of peoples – Slavjane (Славяне). It is in our personal names – you will find it in the second half of my own name, while the male name Vjacheslav (Вячеслав) is normally shortened to just Slava (Слава). It is in the Russian expression for “Thank God” – “Slava Bogu” (Слава Богу).

The noun itself, meaning «glory», «praise for the good deeds» has a 100% positive connotation. For something «ignominious» one would either add a negative adjective: “durnaja slava” (дурная слава) – “ill fame”, or use an antonym “pozor” (позор) – “shame, ignominy”. Likewise, the adjective “slavnyj” (славный) means «wonderful» or «excellent», and the verb “slavit’” (славить) means to “praise”. Trying to defame this part of our language is a continuation of an old Anglo-Saxon mission, when they already once before perverted our self-name into the English word “slave”.

Let us take a look at two historical and cultural examples from the time before Nazism was invented.

Exhibit A is the praising song on the menu on the event of coronation of Nicolas II and Anna Feodorovna in 1896. Below the image you will find the transcript of the verses in the center and at the bottom of the print.

Слава Богу на небе – слава!
Государю нашему на земле – слава!
Всему народу русскому – слава!
Его верным слугам – слава!
Именитым гостя его – слава!
Чтобы правда была на Руси
Краше солнца светла – слава!

А эту песню мы хлебу поём,
Честь воздаём – слава!
Старым людям на утешение,
Добрым людям на услышанье, слава!
Слава во веки веков слава!

Glory to God in the heaven – glory!
To our Tzar on earth – glory!
To the whole Russian people – glory!
To his faithful servants – glory!
To his famous guests – glory!
Let the truth be in Rus
Fairer than the brightest Sun – glory!

And this song we sing to bread,
Praising it – glory!
For the elderly in consolation,
For the good people to be heard, glory!
Glory in all eternity glory!

Exhibit B is the finale praising song “Slavsja” from M. Glinka’s opera “Life for the Tzar“. Below is a performance of the original version with the text and my translation below the video. In modern Russia this song is performed during the state state celebrations and also during the presidential inaugurations, along with the anthem. For a short period of time, after the collapse of the USSR, it also acted as the anthem of Russia.

Славься, славься, наш Русский Царь!
Господом данный нам Царь-Государь!
Да будет бессмертен твои царский род,
Да им благоденствует русский народ.

Славься, славься, ты Русь моя,
Славься, ты русская наша земля.
Да будет во веки веков сильна
Любимая наша родная страна.

Славься, славься, из рода в род
Славься, великий наш русский народ.
Врагов, посягнувших на край родной,
Рази беспощадной могучей рукой.

Славься, славься, родная Москва
Родины нашей, страны голова.
Живи возвышайся на радость нам
На счастье народов, на гибель врагам.

Слава, слава, героям бойцам,
Родины нашей отважным сынам.
Кто кровь за Отчизну свою прольет,
Того никогда не забудет народ.

Слава, слава, греми Москва!
Празднуй торжественный день Государя,
Ликуй, веселися твой Царь грядет!
Царя-Государя встречает народ.

Слава, слава, нашему Царю!
Слава, слава, земли родной!
Слава героям Руси Святой!
Ура! Ура! Ура!

Glory, glory, our Russian Tzar!
Given by God to our our Tzar-Ruler!
Let your royal family be eternal,
With the Russian people favouring it.

Glory, glory to you, my Rus,
Glory to you, our Russian land.
Let it through the ages be strong
Our beloved homeland.

Glory, glory from generation to generation
Glory to to our great Russian people.
The enemies who invade our birthplace,
Strike down with powerful merciless hand.

Glory, glory, mother-Moscow
The head of our motherland, our country.
Live and be tall for our joy,
For the happiness of the peoples, for the fall of the enemies.

Glory, glory to the hero-fighters,
The brave sons of our motherland.
Those who will shed their blood for the Fatherland,
Will never be forgotten by the people.

Glory, glory, be loud, Moscow!
Celebrate the honourable day of the tzar,
Be happy and joyful, your Tzar is coming!
Tzar-ruler is greeted by the people!

Glory, glory to our Tzar!
Glory, glory to our motherland!
Glory to the heroes of Sacred Rus!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

This video is from a theatrical performance of the “Slavsja” choir: